Most military suicides are after service
Military suicides are more likely to occur after a person leaves the service and not, as conventional wisdom has it, during a deployment, concludes a new study published in JAMA.
To examine the link between deployment and suicide, researchers analyzed military records for more than 3.9 million service members on active or reserve duty for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, using data ranging from October 7, 2001 December 31, 2007, and suicide data from October 7, 2001 to December 31, 2009.
Records revealed a total of 31,962 deaths, 5,041 of which were suicides, by December 31, 2009.
Results showed that deployment was not associated with the rate of suicide, considering that 1,162 suicides were among those who deployed and 3,879 were among those who didn’t. There was, however, an increased rate of suicide linked to leaving the service, regardless of time deployed or not. Suicide rates were also higher for members who left with less than four years of service or were dishonorably discharged.
Feedback from the University of Texas on the study points out that those who have a difficult time with deployment don’t usually go back a second time, which may be an early marker for mental health concerns. Dishonorable discharges may also be related to underlying mental health disorders. Additionally, those contemplating suicide who have access to firearms are at an elevated risk.
The findings indicate that pre-deployment examinations may help screen people with mental health risk factors.